Over the last few years, Sydney’s Megastick Fanfare have carved themselves out a reputation as some of the city’s most vibrant and engaging performers. Their show’s rife with live looping and layered percussion; the band’s sound has been described with every buzz word you could imagine, their sound remaining some hyphenated pop analogue in the pages of the street press and websites, even our own.
Having kept us waiting for a good long time now, they’ve finally finished their debut album Grit Aglow, a work that captures the incendiary energy of their dynamic live shows, at the same time adding a depth to the songs that you can only achieve in the studio.
Recorded and produced by the band themselves, with the help of friends, including Jonathan Boulet who was instrumental in mixing the album, the album has been released through a packaging and distribution deal with Other Tongues. Their album launch coming up this Thursday May 26th at the FBi Social, Kings X Hotel, we caught up with singer/multi-instrumentalist Adam Connelly to talk about getting the album finished and released.
Music Feeds: So the album is finally out. I was listening to it and it struck me that it really reminded me of seeing you guys play in the early days?
Adam Connelly: Yeah I guess, the songs are the songs we were playing live when we were first playing live and establishing our live sound. They’re the same songs, but they’ve been through a long process of actually becoming a record. They’ve been through a lot, but that whole time was really spent working out how to make those songs, that we knew live, exist on record.
MF: Cool, so can you tell me about that?
AC: We learned a lot in the process, that’s for sure. It’s been a weird process though, we were really happy with our live set, and we really felt the songs made sense live, on stage, but we weren’t really sure about how to do that on record because it’s such a different art-form. Because the recording was so insular, we were pretty much doing it in our own space, and engineering and producing it all ourselves along with a good friend. It was all just a case of learning through our mistakes, and trying to find ways to make something that worked well live translate through to a recording.
We had problems with tempo and things like that and getting that energy that we had when we play it live. There have been a couple of times when we’ve listened to a recording and just thought ‘it’s so slow,’ because when we play live we play it at twice the speed pretty much. There was one point actually where we had a major freakout because we were listening to the album and we were just like ‘oh my god, all the songs are way too fucking slow, we’re going to have to record the whole fucking album again,’ but then we realised we were just listening to them at the wrong sample rate, just playing slightly too slow, but we’d already called our mate who was helping us with it over by then (laughs).
MF: Cool so why did it take so long?
The plan was to get it done in two months. We worked out a whole schedule, and we rehearsed at Zwee’s parent’s house and they were going away for two months, so we thought we could record through the night, there’d be no one else around and we thought we could all knock it off in that time. We got a lot done there, but as soon as we left that space, we all do other things, everyone else in the band is studying and I’m working, and it kind of just got dragged out from there because it was hard to find the time.
MF: So were you recording live all in the room together?
Yeah, that was the initial idea, and we did do stuff like that, but unfortunately there are no songs on the album that are completely live takes, although that is something we’re still going to try and do in the future. But even when Zwee was doing a take on drums we would all be there, and we’d be playing even if we weren’t being tracked on those takes, so we could work off each other and really keep that energy of our live set.
MF: Well you did a really good job of that, listening to the album I kept thinking how much it sounded exactly like your live show.
AC: Yeah, thanks. At the same time there are some things you can do in a studio that you can’t do live, and the way we wrote those songs was just layering stuff on top of stuff, and part of how we grew as musicians during the recording was realising that that doesn’t always help the songs. In the studio, we just went crazy on some of the songs, and when it came to mixing there were songs where we took out half of the layers that were there originally. I mean there were times where Sam would say ‘oh I can think of seven synth lines that would go over this,’ and record them all. But there are parts of the album where we kept that and I think it works.
MF: So was this done all on your own?
AC: No, we were guided and borrowed from the technical knowledge and expertise of other people every step of the way. With the engineering and recording we had Frey, who’s been a friend of ours for a while, guiding us and we were there doing it with him and there were times when we had to trust him and times where he had to trust us. The same thing happened with the mixing with Jonno, Jonno Boulet, who’s also a friend of ours. With the mastering though, it’s a very technical process and we just wanted to get someone who knew what they were doing. I heard it was much cheaper to do stuff overseas, so I just looked up the guy who did all the masters for Black Moth Super Rainbow as they’re one of my favourite artists and all their albums just sound amazing, and yeah, his rate was reasonable, so we just sent the album to him and he just sent it back, it’s as simple as that.
MF: So it’s just a distribution deal with Other Tongues then?
AC: It’s packaging and distribution; we came to them with a finished record and they help with everything from there. So it’s kind of like being independent, but you get all the advantages of having a label with you to help at every step of the way. I think the main difference is they’re not the ones putting up the money for the recording, we’re more like partner’s rather than us belonging to them, which I think is a really good way to work.
Megastick Fanfare will be launching their debut album Grit Aglow at The FBi Social at the Kings X Hotel this Thursday the 26th May and at Otis Bar in Woolongong on Friday May 27th with The Parking Lot Experiments and Sealion.
Here’s a wicked trailer.